Senate Snuff Boxes

Makers unknown

Lacquered leather, circa 1860
Size: 3" h. x 1 3/4" w. x 1" d.
Catalog No. 92.00001, 92.00002

Senate chamber

U.S. Senate Collection
Office of Senate Curator

A continuing tradition in the Senate chamber is the maintenance of two small snuffboxes, decorated with Japanese figures. In the early 19th century, a large snuff urn was kept in the Old Senate Chamber on the vice president's desk, and senators could help themselves freely to a pinch of snuff. During the tenure of Vice President Millard Fillmore, this snuff urn was replaced with the two Japanese snuff boxes. According to the Assistant Doorkeeper Isaac Bassett, the frequent interruptions caused by members approaching his desk for snuff so disturbed Fillmore that he asked Bassett to remove the urn. Bassett subsequently placed the two lacquered snuff boxes at opposite sides of the room. Today, these boxes are affixed to a ledge flanking the rostrum in the current Senate chamber. While the custom of taking snuff in the chamber has disappeared, the boxes still contain snuff, in keeping with this Senate tradition.